Big gay rights victory in Ireland

Posted: May 24, 2015 by Admin in At the coalface, Class Matters, Democracy movements, Ireland, LGBTI today, Secularism

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by Philip Ferguson

The south of Ireland has given a resounding ‘yes’ to equal marriage rights.  The vote has gone roughly 62% for, 38% against.  In Dublin the vote is more like 70-30 and in some of the big working class areas voting booths have even shown support as high as 80%.  The working class and young people voted overwhelmingly for marriage equality.

Indeed, the socialist-republican organisation éirígí noted the day after the referendum: “Tallies have revealed that the YES vote is highest amongst working class communities in cities and towns across the Twenty-Six Counties.

“In Dublin the people of areas like Tallaght, Ballymun, Ballyfermot, Coolock and the South Inner City have voted for equality by margins of up to four to one.

“Many of these same communities are also hotbeds of resistance to the water tax and austerity. All indicators of the growing levels of political awareness and mobilisation – of the potential strength of an organised working class.

“Yesterday we broke the chains of church domination. Tomorrow we break the chains of capitalist exploitation!”

Only one constituency – Roscommon/South Leitrim – recorded a ‘no’ majority and it was very narrow.

000aa18b-642While the Catholic, Presbyterian and Methodist churches called for a ‘no’ vote, they – especially the Catholic hierarchy – no longer have the power to determine the outcome on referenda on social issues.  The tide finally began to turn on these reactionaries in the early-mid 1990s and is now clearly moving with the forces of modernisation and liberalisation.  Given the breadth of forces calling for a ‘yes’ vote – from rugby legend Brian O’Driscoll and Irish soccer team captain Robbie Keane to the Gaelic Players Association which represents over 2,000 hurlers and Gaelic football players at county level (they consulted their members and found 85% supported equal marriage rights) to trade unions to crooner Daniel O’Donnell to all the parties in the southern parliament and substantial business interests – the result was never in doubt; it was simply a question of how big the majority would be.

At the same time, it is important to recognise that the dominant section of the establishment in the south is now the liberal bourgeoisie.  They’re all for gay rights, but are utterly anti-working class.  They continue to impose vicious austerity on the working class.  The fight against them will be even harder than the fight against the reactionary religious hierarchies.

For the background to the referendum, see: Southern Irish society and politics and the referendum on gay marriage 

For gay liberation pieces on this blog, see Gay liberation on Redline

Postscript: On the same day there was another referendum.  Voters decided by a three-to-one majority not to lower to twenty-one the age at which people can stand for the presidency.  Currently you have to be 35 to be a presidential candidate.  Also on May 22, there was a by-election in the Carlow-Kilkenny constituency.  It was won by Fianna Fail, the dominant party in the south from 1932-2011, when it only came third in the general election.  The FF win was as expected, their candidate having lost his seat in the 2011 landslide defeat for the party.

  1. Thomas R says:

    Referendums are interesting since they give an intersection of societal views rather than the slow shifting foot-dragging of the ruling class as represented in parliament. Here’s hoping abortion rights get on the table soon cause that’s still such a huge issue – and like a lot of these things, one that disproportionately craps on the working class.

  2. Phil says:

    I think abortion will be revisited in the next couple of years. The Church actually began to lose on the abortion issue before it began losing on gay rights and divorce.

    Abortion will be a harder battle, because the establishment in the south is divided on the issue, whereas they were pretty united in support of marriage equality. Scores upon scores of businesses in the south called for a ‘yes’ vote and linked it to showing that Ireland was ‘open for business’ for everyone.

    But I don’t think you can really have a modern capitalist society with draconian restrictions on the availability of abortion any more.

    Btw, there was another referendum at the same time. It was about lowering the age that people can stand for the presidency from 35 to 21. This lost resoundingly. Lots of people who support equal marriage rights don’t think 21-34 year-olds should be able to be presidential candidates.

    As one woman said, in relation her son, “If he wants to run, he can run in the park.”


    • jamesmcbarron says:

      Big celebrations here Phil an historic victory. The Eirigi analysis of the working class voting patterns is spot on. There are high levels of solidarity in working class communities as a result of the water tax struggle and the need for people to look after one another as a result of the economic crash and the policies being implemented by the rightwing government. The are big problems in the water tax movement as a result of political oppurtunism and sectarianism. However there is significant grassroots horizontal organisisng in many communities and confidence is improving and new people becoming active in struggle. I suspect a lot of this momentum will be channelled into electoralism and reformism in the coming year, but the lessons of self organising and solidarity will resonate into the future.